The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed the claim of Pawan Kumar Gupta, one of the four death row convicts, in the Nirbhaya gang rape-and-murder case that he was a juvenile at the time of the offence in December 2012. The court also slammed his advocate for filing forged documents and not appearing in the court. Irked over the conduct of advocate A P Singh, who filed the petition for Pawan, the high court imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the the counsel for playing "hide and seek".
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait noted that convict Pawan Kumar Gupta had earlier raised the juvenility claim in his review petition against the death penalty awarded to him in the case before the Supreme Court which had dismissed his plea on July 9 last year.
Earlier, advocaye AP Singh appeared in the court at 10:30 AM and mentioned the matter for seeking an adjournment on the pretext of filing some additional documents, without informing the other party. On his request, the court had adjourned the plea for January 24.
Minutes thereafter, additional public prosecutor for Delhi Police Sanjay Lau and advocates Jitendra Jha and Seema Samriddhi Kushwaha, representing the parents of the victim, informed the court that the issue of juvenility was already decided by the Supreme Court. They said the convict's plea was not maintainable and it was filed to delay and drag the matter so that execution of death sentence does not take place in near future. The victim's parents were also present during the hearing in the court. The judge, through his staff, sent several communications via phone, SMS and e-mail to the advocate to appear before the court as the matter would be again taken up.
However, Singh did not "bother" to come to the court when the matter was again taken up after 2:30 PM or respond to any of the communications, the judge noted in his order.
The court said the cost imposed on the advocate be deposited within one week in favour of 'Nirmal Chhaya' for the welfare of destitute women and children. It also asked Bar Council of Delhi to take action against the advocate for filing forged affidavit in the court regarding the convict's age and added that without applying his mind or deliberately he filed the documents to delay the process.
Pawan had earlier filed before a trial court the plea claiming to be juvenile at the time of the offence and it was dismissed on December 21 last year. He challenged the trial court's order now in the high court. Pawan, in his plea, claimed that as per his school certificate his date of birth was October 8, 1996. However, as per the age verification report of the police, his father had stated that he was born on June 17, 1992, which meant he was over 18 years of age at the time of the offence on December 16, 2012.
While dismissing the plea, the High Court also observed it seemed that the convict's advocate was not interested in appearing in the court and it "deprecates such a practice".
Seeking to be declared a juvenile at the time of occurrence of the incident, Pawan alleged that his ossification test was not conducted by the investigating officers and claimed benefit under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. He said in his plea that the provision of section 7A of JJ Act lays down that a claim of juvenility may be taken before any court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even after final disposal of the case.
Pawan, who was awarded death sentence and lodged in Tihar jail, sought that the concerned authority be directed to conduct his ossification test to ascertain his claim of juvenility. Besides Pawan, who moved the plea claiming juvenility, the other three convicts in the case are Mukesh, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh.
A 23-year-old paramedic student, referred to as Nirbhaya, was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 in a moving bus in south Delhi by six persons before she was thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012 at a hospital in Singapore.